Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

My answers to the Book of Questions

What follows are my answers to selected questions from Dr. Gregory Stock's Book of Questions (which I purchased in Pueblo CO during my last cross-country bicycle ride). I limited myself to 140 characters for each answer, and used periods to separate answers to sub-questions.

2. Do you believe in ghosts or evil spirits? Would you be willing to spend a night alone in a remote house that is supposedly haunted?

No: they're claimed to have real-world effects, which scientists would have observed by now. Yes, if hucksters hadn't tampered with it.

3. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven't you told them yet?

Nothing: I've pondered this before, and have already said what needed to be said.

4a. If you could spend one year in perfect happiness but afterward would remember nothing of the experience would you do so? If not, why not?

No: more than a decade of constant happiness would be lost by the inability to recall that decade's sporadic happiness over the next four.

4b. Which is more important: actual experiences, or the memories that remain when the experiences are over?

Memories: there is no such thing as "actual experience."

5. If a new medicine were developed that would cure arthritis but cause a fatal reaction in 1 percent of those who took it, would you want it to be released to the public?

Yes, if pre-dose counseling is mandatory (FWIW: restored ability to exercise in majority might INCREASE average lifespan for all takers).

6. You discover your wonderful one-year-old child is, because of a mixup at the hospital, not yours. Would you want to exchange the child to try to correct the mistake?

Yes: nobody remembers anything before age two, and the possibility of someone that similar to me being mistreated would disturb me.

7. Do you think that the world will be a better or a worse place 100 years from now?

Better, barring nuclear war or an asteroid: I believe the long-term decline in violence that Steven Pinker's new book documents is real.

8. Would you rather be a member of a world championship sports team or be the champion of an individual sport? Which sport would you choose?

An individual sport, since I could continue to enjoy it after retirement. Cycling, since that skill can also be used to have adventures.

9a. Would you accept $1,000,000 to leave the country and never set foot in it again?

No: my law degree is only useful here, and although that might be enough money to be lazy it isn't enough to change anything.

9b. If you were expelled from the country and had only limited financial resources, where would you try to rebuild your life?

Vancouver BC: similar culture, shared language, high-tech industries, natural beauty, free health care, and my friends could visit me.

10. Which sex do you think has it easier in our culture? Have you ever wished you were of the opposite sex?

Men: they can make up for age/appearance by succeeding at something and dressing well, and enjoy greater license to have adventures. No.

11a. You are given the power to kill people simply by thinking of their deaths and twice repeating the word "good-bye." People would die a natural death and no one would suspect you. Are there any situations in which you would use this power?

Yes: homicidal criminal orgs, terrorist orgs, and at-large murderers would disappear as quickly as I could learn their names.

11b. If you can imagine yourself killing someone indirectly, could you still see doing so if you had to look into the person's eyes and stab the person to death? Have you ever genuinely wanted to kill someone, or wished someone dead?

In the previous question's categories, absolutely. The at-large Beltway Sniper was a good example.

12. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain the body or the mind of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

The body: I was able to complete many challenging things by age 30, so that age's mind should be good enough.

13. What would constitute a "perfect" evening for you?

The Burning Man Festival, on a windless night under the stars, in the company of someone I'm in love with.

14a. Would you rather be extremely successful professionally and have a tolerable yet unexciting private life, or have an extremely happy private life and only a tolerable and uninspiring professional life?

Professionally successful: I've already had every personal adventure within reach.

14b. Since so many place great emphasis on a happy private life, why do people often wind up putting more energy into their professional lives? If you feel your private life is more important to you, do your priorities support this? Are you simply unwilling to admit that work is more important? Do you use work as a substitute? Do you hope professional success will somehow magically lead to personal happiness?

Because professional life is actually within their control: personal life is driven by adventurism of peers, which diminishes with age.

15. Whom do you admire the most? In what way does that person inspire you?

Thomas Jefferson: he made a positive difference in the world via his combination of eloquence and comprehensive knowledge of the past.

16. If at birth you could select the profession your child would eventually pursue, would you do so?

No: if so I'd be doomed to guilt if that profession were eclipsed by another, and would miss the fun of seeing something new unfold.

17a. Would you be willing to become extremely ugly physically if it meant you would live for 1,000 years at any physical age you chose?

Yes: I'd love to see what happens to our species, and besides, in virtual environments you can appear however you wish.

17b. How much are you affected by a person's physical appearance? How would it change your life if something happened to make you much less attractive than you are now? Do you find anything disturbing about immortality? What age seems ideal to you?

I'm uncomfortable if I'm unsure whether there's an accompanying mental disability. I'd socialize in-person less. Risk of eternal pain.

18. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one ability or quality, what would it be?

Immortality, assuming I retained the power to end my consciousness if subjected to intolerable pain with no chance of escape.

19a. You have the chance to meet someone with whom you can have the most satisfying love imaginable - the stuff of dreams. Sadly, you know that in six months the person will die. Knowing the pain that will follow, would you still want to meet the person and fall in love? What if you knew your lover would not die, but instead would betray you?

No: the chaos/anguish afterwards would be unfair to everyone else in my life, plus I doubt what I have could be improved on.

19b. In love, is intensity or permanence more important to you? How much do you expect from someone who loves you? What would make you feel betrayed by your mate - indifference? Dishonesty? Infidelity?

Permanence, if something is still there. I expect to be appreciated personally. Each is a betrayal, but indifference can't be fixed.

20. If you knew of a way to use your estate, following your death, to greatly benefit humanity, would you do it and leave only a minimal amount to your family?

Yes, and I believe my family would approve.

21. Do you prefer being around men or women? Do your closest friends tend to be men or women?

No general preference, but I admit many of the classic "guy" conversation topics bore me. Women.

22. If you could use a voodoo doll to hurt anyone you chose, would you?

No: even in the case of a murderer mere pain would not prevent him or her from committing future crimes, so this accomplishes nothing.

23a. While on a trip to another city, your spouse (or lover) meets and spends a night with an exciting stranger. Given that they will never meet again, and that you will not otherwise learn of the incident, would you want your partner to tell you about it? If roles were reversed, would you reveal what you had done?

Yes. Yes.

23b. How serious would an affair need to be before you would want and expect to be told about it? What makes hearing such a confession so threatening that most people would rather be deceived? Is this kind of honesty more likely to be destructive or to lead to greater intimacy and trust? How much do you trust your lover? How much can you be trusted?

As soon as possible. They assume they'll eventually be abandoned. Generally destructive, since the dishonesty already happened.

24. Are there people you envy enough to want to trade lives with them? Who are they?

No: this would non-consensually strip the other person of their hard-earned life, and hence would be immoral (also, I like my life).

25a. For an all-expense-paid, one-week vacation anywhere in the world, would you be willing to kill a beautiful butterfly by pulling off its wings? What about stepping on a cockroach?

No: symbolic meaning is still meaning, and this memory would haunt me for the rest of my life. Yes: I would have killed it anyway.

25b. Why does a beautiful creature merit more compassion than an ugly one? Does it damage us psychologically when we destroy something we find beautiful? How meaningful is the difference between pulling the wings off an insect and stepping on it? Is the decision of how to kill something a minor decision when balanced against the decision of whether or not to kill it at all?

Here, it's not a question of ugliness: city cockroaches have a parasitic relationship with humans, while butterflies do not.

26a. Would you be willing to murder an innocent person if it would end hunger in the world?

No, but only because famine typically results from wars and bad government, and it would be better to fix the root of the problem.

26b. Would it torment you more to have the blood of an innocent person on your hands or to know you let millions of people die? What do you think of people who achieve great things by compromising their principles? Many are willing to give their own lives but not to take the life of another; is anything so important you would sacrifice your very soul for it?

Killing the innocent person would torment me more, but that doesn't mean letting millions die is right.

27. If God appeared to you in a series of vivid and moving dreams and told you to leave everything behind, travel alone to the Red Sea and become a fisherman, what would you do? What if you were told to sacrifice your child?

No. No. [I have plenty of vivid and moving dreams, but they're still nothing but dreams, and no basis for inferring divine command.]

28. What is your most treasured memory?

Completing my 2008 cross-country bicycle trip.

30. Would you rather be given $10,000 for your own use or $100,000 to give anonymously to strangers? What if you could keep $1,000,000 or give away $20,000,000?

$10k. $1m. [Most people would just waste it - different result in $10k case if I could choose the recipients.]

31. If you knew there would be a nuclear war in one week, what would you do?

Visit London, then Rome, then Australia (where I might have a better chance of escaping the fallout).

32. Would you accept twenty years of extraordinary happiness and fulfillment if it meant you would die at the end of the period?

No: I want to live to see as many scientific discoveries as possible.

34. What was your most enjoyable dream? Your worst nightmare?

Any dream in which I can fly just for the fun of it. Any "dream" involving sleep paralysis.

35a. Would you give up half of what you now own for a pill that would permanently change you so that one hour of sleep each day would fully refresh you?

Yes: that amounts to more life, which money ordinarily can't buy.

35b. Do you feel you have enough time? If not, what would give you that feeling? How much has your attitude about time changed as you've aged?

Yes: I'm unlikely to change the world, but selfishly I'd still like to live to see as many scientific discoveries as possible. Relaxed.

36. If you knew you could devote yourself to any single occupation - music, writing, acting, business, politics, medicine, etc. - and be among the best and most successful in the world at it, what would you choose? If you knew you had only a 10 percent chance of being so successful, would you still put in the effort?

Business, since you're not subject to the character assassinations of politics, and can sponsor or foster advances in art/science. No.

38. If you went to a dinner party and were offered a dish you had never tried, would you want to taste it even if it sounded strange and not very appealing?

Yes: expecting to like something is far from the only reason to do it, and here you'll permanently know what that dish is like.

39a. Do your close friends tend to be older or younger than you?

Same or slightly older: in my early 20s I hung out with people much older, in the hope of gaining wisdom, but mostly got condescension.

39b. What kind of people do you like to spend time with? What do such people bring out in you that others do not? What can people learn about you by looking at your friends?

People who are smart, good-natured, non-cynical, and enthusiastic about life. Good ideas. Creating new things is worthwhile.

41. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire; after saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be?

The thumb drive (which also holds all my photographs) that I prepared for exactly this purpose.

42a. How would you react if you were to learn that your mate had had a lover of the same sex before you knew each other?

I wouldn't care, and none of my friends would either: this is the 21st century, in a city where that kind of bigotry has no place.

42b. Have you ever been sexually attracted to someone of the same sex? To someone in your family? If so, how did you deal with it?

No. No.

43. When were you last in a fight? What caused it and who won?

I have never been in a physical altercation, at least as an adult.

44. You are offered $1,000,000 for the following act: Before you are ten pistols - only one of which is loaded. You must pick up one of the pistols, point it at your forehead, and pull the trigger. If you can walk away you do so a millionaire. Would you accept the risk?

No: it's not enough money to do anything with other than be lazy, and a little of that goes a long way.

45a. Someone very close to you is in pain, paralyzed, and will die within a month. He begs you to give him poison so that he can die. Would you? What if it were your father?

Yes, but both Washington and Oregon have passed assisted suicide laws covering this situation, so there I would refuse on that ground.

45b. Should it be illegal to help a terminally-ill person to die? If someone is not dying but has chronic pain, should the person be allowed to commit suicide? What if the person is in emotional rather than physical pain?

No, assuming oversight. Yes. No: people might still try to avoid divorce by threatening suicide, but the state shouldn't encourage it.

47. You have the power to go any distance into the future and, after one year, return to the present with any knowledge you have gained from your experience but with no physical objects. Would you make the journey if it carried a 50 percent risk of death?

No: this should fall to a leader who could use the information to benefit the world, even if nobody believed the trip actually happened.

48a. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as your dinner guest? As your close friend? As your lover?

Charlie Rose: he has met everyone, but I don't know what he thinks. Bill Gates: he's in a position to do great good. No change.

48b. What do you seek in a friend yet neither expect nor want in a lover? Are you attracted to people who are healthy for you to be around?

Nothing. I am now, but that has not always consistently been the case.

49. While parking late at night, you slightly scrape the side of a Porsche. You are certain no one else is aware of what happened. The damage is minor and would not be covered by insurance. Would you leave a note?

No: minor mystery scrapes are an inevitable part of driving in the real world, and my own car has several.

50a. If you could choose the manner of your death, what would it be?

Cryogenic freezing: at least I'd die knowing there could be a tiny chance of being revived later on.

50b. Would you prefer to die a hero's death, die a martyr to some great cause, die in a natural catastrophe, or die peacefully? Why is it so tempting to have death catch us in our sleep? How do your feelings about death influence the way you lead your life?

Hero's death: my family and friends would have something to be proud of, and I might inspire a few people toward greater courage.

51a. Do you have any specific long-term goals? What is one and how do you plan on reaching it?

Yes. Creating a genuinely useful product, via employment.

51b. How often do you step back and reflect upon the way you are living and where you are headed? In what way will reaching your goals make your life more satisfying?

Frequently. Doing so will remind me of the fact that I can set goals and achieve them, and make me feel useful again.

52. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

The educational opportunities I've had: without my degrees and all that happened while I was pursuing them, I could have been nowhere.

53. How do you react when people sing "Happy Birthday" to you in a restaurant?


54. What is the worst psychological torture you can imagine suffering? Anything causing even minor physical injury should not be considered.

Solitary confinement of indefinite duration in complete darkness and silence.

55. Would you like your spouse to be both smarter and more attractive than you?

Yes, assuming I didn't win that person's affection under false pretenses (e.g. by lying about my life or accomplishments).

56. If you found that a good friend had AIDS, would you avoid him? What if your brother or sister had it?

No. No.

57. Would you be willing to give up sex for one year if you knew it would give you a much deeper sense of peace than you have now?

Yes, assuming the elevated peace of mind is permanent.

58a. A good friend pulls off a well-conceived practical joke that plays on one of your foibles and makes you look ridiculous. How would you react?

I'd be a good sport about it at the time, but if the joke went too far and hurt my feelings I'd tell my friend this privately.

58b. How forgiving are you when your friends let you down?

I don't let missed appointments bother me: in this part of the country it's practically the norm, and I usually have a backup plan.

59. By controlling medical research funds, you are in the position to guarantee that a cure will be found in 15 years for any disease you choose. Unfortunately, no progress on any others would be made during that period. Would you target one disease?

Yes, and I'd pick cancer: people live in fear of it, and a general solution might have other life extension benefits.

60. Would you add one year to your life it meant taking one year from the life of someone in the world selected at random? Would it matter if you were told whose life you had shortened?

No: this would be grossly immoral.

61. Can you urinate in front of another person?


62. If you walked out of your house one morning and saw a bird with a broken wing huddled in a some nearby bushes, what would you do?

I'd call PAWS and request further instructions if I were in a city, but if I were in the wild I wouldn't interfere.

63a. Assume there were a technological breakthrough that would allow people to travel as easily and cheaply between continents as between nearby cities. Unfortunately, there would also be 100,000 deaths a year from this device. Would you try to prevent its use?

Yes, but I would encourage research into whether this breakthrough could instead be used to ship goods.

63b. In the mid 1800s, had you been able to look into the future and see that the automobile would cause 5 million fatalities in the next century, how would you have felt about this new device? Is there scientific knowledge that is best left undiscovered? If so, what areas of research do you feel should be restricted?

About the same: the difference between this and the previous question is that here there is no safer option. Self-replicating nanotech?

64. You and a person you love deeply are placed in separate rooms with a button next to each of you. You know that you will both be killed unless one of you presses your button before 60 minutes pass; furthermore, the first to press the button will save the other person, but will immediately be killed. What do you think you would do?

Destroy everything inside the room that I can within the next 60 minutes.

65. When you tell a story, do you often exaggerate or embellish it? If so, why?


66a. Do you feel that advice from older people carries a special weight because of their greater experience?

Not necessarily, e.g. if they no longer attempt to understand the world and fear any/all change.

66b. Do your comments and suggestions influence other people much? How could you present your ideas so that they would have more impact?

I don't know: I disabled comments on my journal in part so that I'd be free of this form of vanity. By having power over the listeners.

67a. Without your kidney as a transplant, someone close to you will die within one month. The odds that you will survive the operation are only 50 percent, but should you survive you would be certain of a normal life expectancy. Would you consent to the operation?

No: I'm sorry if that sounds selfish but I just don't want to die, and 50% is too high (I probably would at 10% for what it's worth).

67b. Would you risk your life for someone close to you out of feelings of obligation or out of feelings of love? Would it matter if you could refuse without anyone ever knowing? What if the person asked you not to risk your life?

Possibly, depending on the risk: there's a big difference between 1% and 99%. No. Then I wouldn't risk it.

68b. Does living as though you control your own destiny lead to a more powerful life?

Yes, provided you don't become so inflexible as to miss unexpected opportunities that may arise.

69. If a friend were almost always late, would you resent it or simply allow for it? Can you be counted on to be on time?

I'd allow for it: in the Pacific Northwest you'd go mad if you didn't. Yes, unless I believe I'm expected to be late.

70. When did you last yell at someone? Why? Did you later regret it?

About five years ago. Another cyclist almost caused a wreck. Absolutely not.

71a. Would you be willing to have horrible nightmares every night for a year if you would be rewarded with extraordinary wealth?

Absolutely: I have horrible nightmares most nights anyway.

71b. What would you do if you realized that unless you changed jobs and took a 25 percent pay cut, you would have moderate insomnia and a nightmare every month or so? Is there anything worse than the worst nightmare?

I'd stay put: this is no big deal, and I wouldn't be working at that company if I didn't believe in it. Anything bad in real life.

72. If you could have free, unlimited service for five years from an extremely good cook, chauffeur, housekeeper, masseuse, or personal secretary, which would you choose?

The cook: I don't like massages, don't need a secretary, don't need a housekeeper, and find driving a good excuse to enjoy audiobooks.

73. Would you be willing to go to a slaughterhouse and kill a cow? Do you eat meat?

No, but more because of the slaughterhouse than the cow (the former would probably end up fodder for nightmares). Yes.

74. Would you enjoy spending a month of solitude in a beautiful natural setting? Food and shelter would be provided but you would not see another person.

Yes, provided I could bring along several boxes of books and catch up on all my reading (one month would be my limit, though...).

75. After a medical examination, your doctor calls and gravely says you have a rare lymphatic cancer and only a few months to live. Five days later, she informs you that the lab tests were mislabeled; you are perfectly healthy. Forced for a moment to look death in the face, you have been allowed to turn and go on. During those difficult days you would certainly have gained some insights about yourself. Do you think they would be worth the pain?

No, because I'm not sure I would have any more insights: my first cross-country bike trip provided ample time for existential pondering.

76. One hot summer afternoon, while walking through a parking lot at a large shopping center, you notice a dog suffering badly from the heat inside a locked car. What would you do?

Pass the relevant information to mall security so that the vehicle's owner can be alerted.

77. Do you feel ill at ease going alone to either dinner or a movie? What about going on a vacation by yourself?

No, and if it's something that might prove unenjoyable I could prefer this. I don't mind, but this has gotten less appealing over time.

78. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living?

I'd liquidate everything and go on a year-long world tour with my partner, including London and Rome.

79a. For $20,000 would you go for three months without washing, brushing your teeth, or using deodorant? Assume you could not explain you reasons to anyone, and that there would be no long-term effect on your career.

Yes, provided I could take a leave of absence from work and hike all three of those months: otherwise not.

79b. How do react to the idea that more people are willing to have sex for money (question 156) than to forgo washing? A century ago this would not have been the case; do you think our more permissive sexual attitude is a healthy development? What about our increased attention to personal hygiene? How important is advertising in bringing about these changes?

The former doesn't directly involve the relationships which matter to them. Yes: I think unattainable body standards are more harmful.

80. Would you rather die peacefully among friends at age 50, or painfully and alone at age 80? Assume that most of the last 30 years would be good ones.

Age 80: with scientific progress this rapid, I wouldn't want to miss out on even five years.

81. If you were to discover that your closest friend was a heroin dealer, what would you do?

Make sure none of his or her customers ever meet me, and to never leave personal possessions at his or her house for customers to steal.

82. Is it easy for you to accept help when you need it? Will you ask for help?

Relatively. Only if it's something I can't do well myself.

83. If you were helping someone to raise money for a charity and someone agreed to make a large contribution if you would perform at the upcoming fund-raising show, would you? If so, what would you like to perform? Assume the show would have an audience of about 1,000.

Yes, if I believed in the charity as well. A humorous narrated slide show highlighting the importance of the charity's work.

84. Would you have one of your fingers surgically removed if it somehow guaranteed immunity from all major diseases.

Yes, assuming I could choose which one: after all, arthritis could reduce hand function more than the loss of a finger would.

85. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

Only if the fame were necessary to achieve some greater good.

86a. How do you picture your funeral? Is it important for you to have people mourn your death?

I'd like my bag of cremation ashes incinerated in the annual Burning Man "temple," and attended by at least one person who knew me.

86b. How would you like to be remembered after you die? What would you like said at your funeral? Whom would you like to speak?

As someone who lived life to the fullest. Nobody needs to say anything if my journal stays available permanently, though they can.

87. Which of the following restrictions could you best tolerate: leaving the country permanently, or never leaving the state in which you now live?

I love Washington, so this is a close call, but Portland OR has many fine qualities and would be good enough.

88. You, your closest friend, and your father are on vacation together, hiking in a remote jungle. Your two companions stumble into a nest of poisonous vipers and are bitten repeatedly. You know neither will live without an immediate shot of anti-venom, yet there is only a single dose of anti-venom, and it is in your pocket. What would you do?

I'd first ask if anybody wants to voluntarily decline the dose, and if nobody does I'd administer it to my parent.

89. Where would you choose to be if you could place yourself anywhere on a scale from one to ten, where one is hardship, struggle, and extraordinary accomplishment and ten is comfort, peace of mind, and no accomplishment. Why? Where are you now?

Zero: being guaranteed the accomplishment would itself be comforting.

90a. If you could choose the sex and physical appearance of your soon-to-be-born child, would you do it?

No: if so I'd blame myself every time he or she had a bad date.

90b. Would you like to have a child much brighter and more attractive than yourself? What difficulties might result? How much would it bother you to have an ugly, stupid, or crippled child? To ensure your baby would be born bright, attractive, and healthy, would you use a safe medical procedure to genetically alter the developing embryo? Would a baby designed in this way still feel like your child?

Yes. Diminished parental authority? Stupid would be hardest. Yes. Yes, since basic personality isn't being altered.

91. Would you rather play a game with someone more or less talented than you? Would it matter who was watching?

Since I'm not skilled at any game, and don't play any regularly, I'd pick more talented: at least then I can see what good play is like.

92a. Is there something you've dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?

Seeing the ancient Roman ruins. There's no rush, and I figure I'll eventually need to go to Europe for other reasons.

92b. Is it better to have dreams that will never come to pass, or to have no dreams at all? How much better would your life be if the things you dream of doing or having were granted to you?

Never come to pass: you derive more vicarious enjoyment from following the activity, and there is nothing wrong with being a fan.

93. While in the government, you discover the President is committing extortion and other serious crimes. By exposing the situation you might bring about the President's downfall, but you would be framed, fired, and publicly humiliated on other matters. Knowing you would be vindicated five years later, would you blow the whistle? What if you knew you would never be vindicated?

No: this is a rotten situation, but if exposed while in office the country as a whole would unfairly suffer - I'd wait.

94. On a busy street you are approached apologetically by a well-dressed stranger who asks for a dollar to catch a bus and make a phone call. He says he has lost his wallet. What would you do? If approached in the same way by a haggard-looking stranger claiming to be hungry and unable to find a job, what would you do?

I've fallen for this scam with both well-dressed and poorly-dressed people: never again.

95. If by sacrificing your life you could contribute so much to the world that you would be honored in all nations, would you be willing to do so? If so, would you make the same sacrifice knowing that someone you thoroughly disliked would receive the honor while you went unrecognized?

I might be willing to do this later on in life, but not now. Yes, given that biographers would not let his or her faults go unnoticed.

97. What are your most compulsive habits? Do you regularly struggle to break these habits?

Being organized. I don't struggle to break this habit, as only good things seem to come from it.

98. You know you will die of an incurable disease within three months. Would you allow yourself to be frozen within the week if you knew it would give you a modest chance of being revived in 1,000 years and living a greatly extended life?

Absolutely, though I would make a quick visit to Rome before undergoing the procedure.

99. You are driving late at night in a safe but deserted neighborhood when a dog suddenly darts in front of your car. Though you slam on the brakes, you hit the animal. Would you stop to see how injured the animal was? If you did so and found that the dog was dead but had a name tag, would you contact the owner?

Yes. Yes, but I would do so anonymously.

100. What do you most strive for in your life: accomplishment, security, love, power, excitement, knowledge, or something else?

Something else: the feeling that I didn't miss out on anything.

101a. An eccentric millionaire offers to donate a large sum to charity if you will step - completely naked - from a car onto a busy downtown street, walk four blocks, and climb back into the car. Knowing that there would be no danger of physical abuse, would you do it?

No: evidence of this crime would remain on the internet forever, which is too much to ask.

101b. In terms of their relative unpleasantness, how would you rank the following: a nude stroll in public; being spat upon by a crowd of people; being arrested for shoplifting; begging for money at an airport? What is the most embarrassing thing you can imagine? What bothers you about looking bad in front of strangers?

The stroll/arrest are worst, since crime convictions limit your life: with the crowd, at least you can film them for later identification.

102b. Do you feel that children should be sheltered from unhappiness? What from your childhood has proved most valuable? Most difficult to overcome?

No, but neither should the world be presented as worse than it is known to be (i.e. children don't need to hear doomsday predictions).

103. Does the fact that you have never done something before increase or decrease its appeal to you?

Increase: five memories of the same thing adds up to less than five memories of different things.

105. At a meal, your friends start belittling a common acquaintance. If you felt their criticisms were unjustified, would you defend the person?

Yes, and I would enjoy doing so.

106. Do you usually make a special effort to thank someone who does you a favor? How do you react when you aren't thanked for going out of your way for someone?

Yes. I assume what I did wasn't really needed.

107a.Would you like to have your rate of physical aging slowed by a factor of thirty or so as to give you a life expectancy of about 2,000 years?

Absolutely, and without hesitation.

107b. How hard would it be to outlive and lose each person you grew close to? If you lived a greatly lengthened life, would you experience so much that you'd soon feel surrounded by children? Would you be able to adjust to the dramatic social changes? Would you soon grow jaded, feeling there was nothing interesting left? Does feeling that life is too short increase the intensity and passion of it in a desirable way?

I'm used to people drifting out of my life, so that wouldn't bother me. Not if I sought out the brightest. Probably? Never. No.

108. You are invited to a party that will be attended by many fascinating people you've never met. Would you want to go if you had to go by yourself?

Yes, though I might not stay late.

110a. If you were having difficulty on an important test and could safely cheat by looking at someone else's paper, would you do so?

No, though I might take my difficulty as a sign I shouldn't be in that profession.

110b. If you saw someone cheating on a test, what would you do? What if you had signed an honor code?

Report it if the exam will be graded on a curve, otherwise consider it none of my business. No difference.

112. If you were at a friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner and you found a dead cockroach in your salad, what would you do?

Discreetly dispose of it: barring any obvious signs of heavy infestation I'd assume nobody else would likely experience the same thing.

113. If you could take a one-month trip anywhere in the world and money were not a consideration, where would you go and what would you do?

Italy, seeing the ancient Roman sites and the Vatican, touring the countryside, and hearing operas at La Scala and Teatro di San Carlo.

114. Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by five years to become extremely attractive?

No, since barring some disaster scientific progress will be more rapid in the last five years of my life than at any earlier time.

115a. Given the ability to project yourself into the past but not return, would you do so? Where would you go and what would you try to accomplish if you knew you might change the course of history?

No, since I couldn't rule out the possibility of inadvertently and permanently making things worse.

115b. How might the world be different if you could actually change some historical event? How sure are you that the long-term consequences would be positive?

I don't believe this is a prediction even the best historians could reliably make, much less one I could reliably make.

118a. If your friends and acquaintances were willing to bluntly and honestly tell you what they really thought of you, would you want them to?

No: in all likelihood any criticism would relate to basic personality traits not amenable to change.

118b. Do you think your friends would agree with one another about the kind of person you are? How much energy do you spend doing things to favorably impress other people? If you were completely unconcerned about what others would think, what sorts of things might you do? How do you feel when people like you because they think you are someone you are not?

Yes. Very little, though I exclude from this useful actions intended to help other people. Nothing different. This doesn't come up.

119. If this country were to suffer an unprovoked nuclear attack and would be totally obliterated in a matter of minutes, would you favor unleashing the U.S. nuclear arsenal upon the attackers?

No: the purpose of our arsenal is to deter such an attack, and if it failed in this purpose then it failed.

123. When you do something ridiculous, how much does it bother you to have other people notice it and laugh at you?

Not that much, provided it isn't mean spirited: bringing joy to the world is a good thing.

124. Who is the most important person in your life? What could you ever do to improve the relationship? Will you ever do it?

My partner. I'm not sure, though one possibility might be sharing a home. In time, almost certainly.

125a. Assuming that complete recovery were instantaneous, would you be willing to accept a year of complete paralysis below the neck to prevent the otherwise certain extinction of the blue whale?

Yes, though I'd expect the environmentalist community to show its gratitude by keeping me constantly entertained that year.

125b. When you make a big sacrifice, do you tell people about it or keep it to yourself? Do you feel annoyed when your sacrifices aren't acknowledged by others? What would you never willingly sacrifice? Your life? Your health? Your integrity? Your dreams?

Keep it to myself. Slightly. Everything has some price, even if the resulting benefit flows to the species as a whole rather than you.

126. Do you believe in capital punishment? Would you be willing to execute a man sentenced to death by the courts if you were selected by lot to do so and he would go free if you refused? Assume you know no details of the trial.

Yes, but only if guilt is CERTAIN (uncoerced public confession plus hard evidence): life-without-parole is smarter policy. Yes.

127a. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

Nothing really: the things I regret now were my own choices.

128. You are at a lake with some friends; the sun is warm and the water is cold. Going into the water would temporarily chill you but you know that later the warm sun would be even more enjoyable and you would be glad you had gone in. Would you take the plunge?

Yes, but the earlier in the day the better, so that I could also enjoy some uninterrupted relaxation.

129. Do you believe in any sort of God? If not, do you think you might still pray if you were in a life-threatening situation?

No, but I believe our effort to understand the universe has a spiritual dimension, and spreading life beyond this planet is our duty.

130. While out one day, you are surprised to see your mother holding hands with someone who is clearly her lover. She notices you, runs over, and begs you not to say anything to your father. How would you respond? What would you do if your father later told you that he was going crazy because he kept thinking your mother was having an affair yet knew it was just his imagination.

I'd say that I wasn't meant to see this, it isn't any of my business, and that I'll act as if I didn't see it.

131. If 100 people your age were chosen at random, how many do you think you'd find leading a more satisfying life than yours?


132a. If you went to a beach and it turned out to be a nude beach, would you stay and go swimming? Would you swim nude?

Yes. No.

134. Would it disturb you much if, upon your death, your body were simply thrown into the woods and left to rot? Why?

It would bother me only insofar as it would mean nobody left alive was willing to fulfill my actual requests.

135. Which would you prefer: a wild, turbulent life filled with joy, sorrow, passion, and adventure - intoxicating successes and stunning setbacks; or a happy, secure, predictable life surrounded by friends and family without such wide swings of fortune and mood?

Probably the former, since only the former explicitly includes adventure, even though I'm not a fan of chaos per se.

137. Do you find it so hard to say "no" that you regularly do favors you do not want to do? If so, why?

No, but I've been known to voluntarily start a new project to surprise someone else, which then gets out of hand and takes too long.

138. If you began to be very attracted to someone of another race, how would your behavior differ from what it would be toward someone of your own race?

I can't think of one difference.

139. Would you rather spend a month on vacation with your parents or put in overtime at your current job for four weeks without extra compensation?

I'd prefer the month with my parents.

140a. Would you like to know the precise date of your death?

No: where is the adventure in that?

140b. How might knowing when you'll die help you plan your life? Is life enhanced by feeling that death could strike at any time? By not thinking about death at all? If you knew someone was dying, would you tell them the truth or deceive them about it? How many more years do you think you will live?

Knowing the date of one's death would help procrastinators but hurt everyone else (i.e. through that date looming overhead every day).

141a. Would you accept a guaranteed, lifetime allowance of $50,000 per year (adjusted annually for inflation) if accepting it meant that you could never again earn extra money from either work or investments?

No: this seems like a road to endless (and ultimately unsatisfying and isolating) sloth.

141b. Would you accept a much less enjoyable job paying twice what you make now? If you received the same pay regardless of your job, what kind of work would you do? If you were financially independent, would you continue to work? If not, what would you do?

No. I'd be either a venture capitalist, a non-profit consultant, or photojournalist. Yes.

142. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

Assassinating an elected official or a judge.

143. Do you ever spit or pick your nose in public? What about cleaning your teeth with a toothpick?

No. No.

144. A close friend asks - and genuinely wants - your opinion about something, but your opinion is one that he is likely to find quite painful. For example, your friend is an artist and asks your honest estimate of his chances of being successful. You think he is an atrocious artist who hasn't the slightest chance of success. What would you do?

I'd find something similar which succeeded, so I can say he has a chance, but I'd also counsel him to have a plan B in the same field.

146. If you knew a thermonuclear holocaust would occur in precisely 20 years and no one would survive it, how would you change your present life?

I'd travel everywhere, and if possible support SETI research: it would be comforting to learn intelligent life will go on elsewhere.

148. If, by having a 2 inch by 2 inch tattoo, you could save five lives and prevent a terrorist attack, would you do so? If you were allowed to select the location and design, where would you have it and what would the design be?

Yes. Ideally the names of the five people I saved, but failing that the classic atom logo (i.e. with the three interlocking orbits).

150a. Would you be willing to give up all television for the next five years if it would induce someone to provide for 1,000 starving children in Indonesia?

Sure, and it would also be fun to visit some of those kids after they've become adults to see how their lives turned out.

150b. If giving up TV is too much of a sacrifice, would you consider switching to black-and-white viewing?

It wasn't too much of a sacrifice, and a good story would still be enjoyable in black-and-white.

151. While arguing with a close friend on the telephone, she gets angry and hangs up. Assuming she is at fault and makes no attempt to contact you, how long would you wait to get in touch with her?

A few months, since I'd hate to jump the gun if in time he or she would have apologized.

152. What do you value most in a relationship?

Enjoying each other's company.

153a. If you learned you would die in a few days, what regrets would you have? Were you given five extra years of life, could you avoid those same regrets five years hence?

Not having seen Rome. Yes, obviously.

153b. Can you envision how you are likely to look back upon the things you are doing today? If so, how much do you try to live now as you think you will one day wish you had lived?

I suppose. I think this is implicit in the strategy of striving "not to miss out on anything."

154. Do you judge others by higher or lower standards than you use to judge yourself?


155a. Would you be willing to make a substantial sacrifice to have any of the following: your picture on a postage stamp, your statue in a park, a college named after you, a Nobel prize, a national holiday in your honor?

Only the Nobel Prize, and even then only assuming what I discovered was something nobody else was close to discovering.

155b. Are honors more likely to come to those who seek them or to those who don't care about fame and think only of their work? How much do fame and accomplishment impress you? Does just knowing you've accomplished something worthwhile mean as much to you as getting attention and praise for the accomplishment?

The honors that matter go to those who concentrate on their work: you don't APPLY for a Fields Medal.

156b. Since so many people are willing to have sex for money, why is there such a strong stigma attached to prostitution? Is there much difference between having sex for cash and having sex in the hope of the payment alter the nature of the transaction?

Street prostitution is its most visible form, and is associated (fairly or unfairly) with severe drug addiction and abusive pimps.

157. If you had to spend the next two years inside a small but fully provisioned Antarctic shelter with one other person, whom would you like to have with you?

The selfish answer would be a widely-read person like Bill Clinton, but the ethical answer would be someone comfortable with solitude.

158. You notice a self-destructive behavior pattern in a friend who is clearly unaware of it. Would you point it out?

Yes, but only if I were convinced it would make a difference.

159. If you had the choice of one intimate soulmate and no other close friends, or of no such soulmate and many friends and acquaintances, which would you choose?

The soulmate: this is closer to how I normally live anyway.

160. You become involved romantically but after six months realize you need to end the relationship. If you were certain the person would commit suicide if you were to leave and were also certain you could not be happy with the person, what would you do?

Fake my own death.

162. For $2,000 would you be willing to stand up in a crowded restaurant and, for at least a minute, loudly berate a waitress for some trivial imperfection in the service? If not, consider how grateful the waitress would be if you did so and later split the money with her?

No: that's not enough to justify ruining the evening of everyone else in the restaurant, and it would probably end up on YouTube.

163. If there were a public execution on television, would you watch it?

Yes, but I would make a point of not purchasing any of the advertisers' products.

164a. If someone offered you a large amount of money for some information about one of your company's products, would you accept it? Assume you know you won't be discovered.

No: I wouldn't have chosen to work at that company if it didn't deserve my loyalty.

164b. How do you feel about taking a sick day at work when you aren't ill? Have you ever made unauthorized, personal, long-distance phone calls or taken tools or supplies from work? Have you ever falsified a time card or an expense report? If through a computer error you were given too large a paycheck, would you report it? Do you see such moral choices as black-and-white issues?

I don't generally do this sort of thing: if the company treats me fairly, I naturally want to treat it fairly.

165. Do you consider yourself well organized? How often do you have to look for your keys?

Very. Almost never.

166. If you could increase your I.Q. by forty points by having an ugly scar stretching from your mouth to your eye, would you do so?

Yes, and for fun I'd let people believe I have a mysterious past, which I could likely pull off with the new IQ without actually lying.

167. Would you be willing to do something very unsatisfying (for example, clean toilets) for five years if you were certain that the experience would afterwards bring you a deep sense of personal fulfillment for the rest of your life?

No, since that assumes I couldn't find that fulfillment some other way, and it sacrifices the good I could have done during that time.

169. How many times during the day do you look at yourself in the mirror?

Almost never.

170a. Walking along an empty street, you notice a wallet. It contains $5,000 in cash but no name or address. What would you do? Would it alter your decision if inside you found the name, address, and picture of either a wealthy-looking young man or a frail-looking old woman?

Keep it, since the owner isn't identified, and there would be no way to know if someone claiming to be the owner is lying. Return it.

170b. Most people say if they found a wallet full of cash on the street they would return the money; do you believe them? Most also think their own lost wallets would not be returned; do you feel similarly? How do you explain this contradiction? Would you help fund an experiment designed to find out whether people are actually honest enough to return cash-filled wallets?

No. Yes. They're deceiving themselves in the first case. Sure: should I leave my donation on the sidewalk?

171. Would you prefer to be blind or deaf?

Deaf: more of my autonomy, and ability to work in my chosen industry, would be preserved.

172a. Would you be content with a marriage of the highest quality in all respects but one - it completely lacked sex?

No: this would be a close friendship, for which marriage has never been, and is not now, considered customary regardless of intensity.

174. How many of your friendships have lasted more than ten years? Which of your current friends do you feel will still be important to you ten years from now?

About two. Those, plus my partner and five or six other people.

175. If you could mold to your liking your memories of any past experience, would you do so?

A few years ago I would have said yes, but now I'm going to say no: time really does heal.

176. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?

No, but I can imagine work situations in which it would be helpful to at least have an outline.

178a. You are leading 100 people whose lives are in danger and you must choose between two courses of action. One would save only 90 people; the other would have a 50 percent chance of saving everyone but were it to fail everyone would die. Which would you choose?

The former: not only does it have a higher expected number, but I might never forgive myself if I rolled the dice and lost everyone.

178b. What if you had to choose the 10 people who would die? Would you rather have someone else in the group make the decision even though you might be picked to die?

I'd first ask for volunteers, then go in decreasing order of age, and would announce this scheme before learning anyone's age.

179. If you went to a movie with a friend and it was lousy, would you leave?

No, unless my friend also wanted to leave.

180a. For $1,000,000 would you be willing to never again see or talk to your best friend?

If this friend were also my partner then no, otherwise yes: this is a mobile society, and in time friends move and lose touch anyway.

180b. If you were offered a much better job in another city and knew you would, over the years, drift away from your closest friend if you took it, would you go?

No, but not because of the friend, but rather because Seattle is my home.

181. What do you like best about your life? Least?

I like its broad freedom. The frustrations are minor.

182. Have you ever disliked someone for being luckier or more successful than you?

Dislike may be too strong a word, but if I felt I worked harder than that person then yes.

184. When you are given a compliment do you usually acknowledge it or suggest that you really do not deserve it?

Acknowledge it, unless it's about my appearance.

185. What sorts of things would you do if you could be as outgoing and uninhibited as you wished? Do you usually initiate friendships or wait to be approached?

I'd probably include more couch surfing in my adventures, and meet more people. I'm not usually the one to initiate.

186. If you decided to do something and your friends strongly advised you not to, could you do it anyway?

Yes, but I'd be even more careful to have an exit strategy.

187. In a nice restaurant, after getting the check for an excellent meal, you notice that you were not charged for one of the items you ate. Would you tell the waitress?

No, but I'd add the cost of that item to her tip, which is even better.

188. Do you establish routines in your life? For example, do you usually sleep in the same place in your bed? Eat meals at the same time? Regularly return to the same vacation spot?

Yes, but only to a moderate degree.

189. Can you be counted on to do what you say you'll do? What does it take for you to trust someone?

Yes, but if allowed I have a tendency to expand projects beyond their original scope, which may require a revised deadline. Experience.

190. Do you feel you have much impact on the lives of people you come in contact with? Can you think of someone who, over a short period of time, significantly influenced your life?

With the exception of long-term partners, no. Yes.

192. When you are with your friends, do your interactions include much touching - for example, hugging, kissing, roughhousing, or rubbing backs? Would you like to have more of this?

Not really. Either way is fine.

193a. Given the ability to project yourself into the future but not return, would you do so? If not, would you change your mind if you could take someone along? How far would you go?

Yes, but I'd wait until the end of my life to do so. A thousand years sounds about right.

193b. What would induce you to give up life as you know it and face the unknown? Were people in previous centuries more adventurous than we are today or was it simply harder to avoid risk and adventure? How much does affluence make people complacent and averse to risk?

If I were either the best person to make that trip, or if it were something like a one-way trip to an alien civilization.

194. Would you generally rather be overdressed or underdressed at a party?

On the west coast underdressed, on the east coast overdressed.

196. You have arranged an evening with a friend, but on the day preceding your date a special opportunity arises to do something much more exciting. How would you handle the situation?

I'd call, explain the situation, and ask if he or she would be willing to reschedule.

198. If you could pass your whole life cared for in every way as you slumbered peacefully, entranced by wonderful dreams, would you do so?

No: my dreams could never contain more than I knew at the time I went to sleep.

199. You are given $1,000,000 to donate anonymously to charity or to a stranger. How would you dispose of it?

The charity: a charity might use the money wastefully, but a stranger could use it self-destructively.

200a. In conversations, do you tend to listen or talk more?

I listen more.

200b. What are you looking for when you converse with people? What kinds of things do you usually discuss? Are there other things that would be more interesting to you?

I like to learn what the other person cares about, then learn more about that thing, then ideally come up with a helpful suggestion.

201. Do you frequently find yourself - just to be polite - saying things you don't mean? For example, when you say good-bye to someone who does not interest you, do you act as though you enjoyed their company?

Of course: it's rude not to, and the standard social pleasantries aren't meant to be categorized as either true or false.

202. Would you be willing to commit perjury for a close friend? For example, might you testify that he was driving carefully when he hit a pedestrian even though he had been joking around and not paying attention?

No: this is asking too much of any friend.

204. Running too quickly on an icy sidewalk in front of a neighbor's house, you slip and break your leg. Would you be likely to sue the owner of the house if you were confident you could win the suit because of his negligence in shoveling the snow?

No: whether the law allows it or not, this is something decent people have no business doing.

205. If you could prevent either an earthquake in Peru that would kill 40,000 people, a crash at your local airport that would kill 200 people, or an automobile accident that would kill an acquaintance of yours, which would you choose?

The earthquake, and if I ever began to doubt my choice I'd visit Peru and get to know some of the people who would have been killed.

208. If you came upon the scene of a terrible highway accident just after the ambulances arrived, would you stop to watch? Assume that your presence would neither help nor hinder the rescuers.

Yes: I consider myself a safe driver, and I have never received any sort of ticket, but this might teach me to be even more careful.

209. If you could script the basic plot for the dream you will have tonight, what would the story be?

I'd invent the world's first fusion reactor to universal acclaim, and the reactor facility would even have a beautiful shape.

210. You are given a chance to return to any previous point in your life and change a decision you made, but you will lose everything that has happened to you since then. Is there a time you would return to? If so, would you like to retain the memory of the life you are giving up even though you could never recapture it?

I might do this if I could retain the memories, since that would amount to enjoying an extra decade or two of life.

211. Would $50,000 be enough money to induce you to take a loyal, healthy pet to the vet to be put to sleep?


212. Ignoring all financial considerations, would you rather spend the next five years confined to the city of New York or to the environs of Morro Bay, a beautiful, isolated town on the California coast?

New York City: there's just too much history, culture, art, and architecture to enjoy, and afterward I'm still free to visit Morro Bay.

213. What would you like to be doing give years from now? What do you think you will be doing five years from now?

Doing productive work in the technology industry. Exactly that.

215. Would you like to be elected president of this country? Why? If so, would you still choose to be president if it meant that your sleep would always be very fitful and disturbed, punctuated by frequent nightmares?

This is fanciful in the extreme, but sure: at least I have a respect for science, and no hidden agenda. Yes: I have nightmares already.

216. If a crystal ball would tell you the truth about any one thing you wished to know concerning yourself, life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?

Whether intelligent life exists anywhere else in the universe.
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